Englesson, Elliott ready for historic mayoral showdown


With two days left before the election of Aberdeen's first mayor, the two candidates -- Ruth Elliott and George J. Englesson -- are vigorously campaigning.

The polls open Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Voting will be conducted at the Aberdeen Senior Center at 60 N. Parke St. There are about 4,600 registered voters.

The election of a mayor comes about as a result of the recent switch to a city charter form of government. Previously the council appointed an honorary mayor from the council. Now, the public will elect the mayor.

Also, the council had five commissioners, while the new council will have four members, plus a voting mayor.

Otherwise, the change to mayor/council government won't really change much.

Elliott and Englesson have some similar threads in their backgrounds.

Both are current town commissioners and have long histories of involvement with city government.

Englesson has served as honorary mayor by vote of the commissioners since 1987. Englesson, 66, came to Aberdeen about 40 years ago to take over management of the New Ideal Diner from relatives who owned it.

Elliott, 54, a retired civilian employee of Aberdeen Proving Ground, has been a town commissioner since 1982 and has lived her whole life in Aberdeen.

Both candidates are pledging to hold the line on spending and to avoid raising property taxes.

An important issue for both candidates is how this city of 13,000 people will grow in the future. Aberdeen celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

Englesson claims credit for Aberdeen's cleaned-up image and downtown revitalization. He points to his work on the Aberdeen Improvement Meeting, which seeks citizen advice on city policies, and notes he was a co-founder of Citizens for a Better Aberdeen.

Englesson also says he has worked hard to bring Aberdeen out " of isolation, forging partnerships with county and state officials to bring money into the city. He says he also made a partner out of neighboring Aberdeen Proving Ground, involving the military installation in the city's growth.

"The reason I tell people I should be elected is that I have done everything I could to include all the community and their ideas, which is what a democracy is all about," Englesson said.

Elliott says one of her concerns is that in the past governmental decisions were being made by a small group of people and weren't necessarily representative of the city as a whole -- a charge Englesson denies.

Englesson says her vision of Aberdeen includes "marketing" the city to attract light industry and "affordable" residential development. Affordable today means about $100,000 for a single-family home, she said.

"A lot of advertising, that is the name of the game," she said.

Englesson agrees that attracting new business is essential to Aberdeen's growth. Careful planning now is vital so that the city grows in an orderly way, he says. He points to the almost constant gridlock in Bel Air near Harford Mall as something Aberdeen does not want.

Elliott says she plans to eliminate "fat" from the city budget. She said there are "line items" that can be trimmed to free money for other purposes, including the city's recycling plan. Elliott said she could not be specific about what line items she would target for cuts, but said basic services would not be affected.

Englesson denies that there is fat in the budget. He said the city has tightened its procurement procedures to make sure money is spent wisely.

In addition to the mayor's seat, eight candidates are competing for two open City Council seats in the non-partisan election.

Council members' salaries remain at $5,000 a year, and the mayor's pay at $6,000, for the part-time offices.

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